Aaahhhh…vacation.  A time to relax, rejoice, eat, drink and be merry! Absolutely.  I agree with this 100% and as some of you may know I have recently returned from 3 weeks away. We flew to South Africa by way of a three day layover in Paris (because why not?).  While I do post photos of us and what we are eating all the time on IG and FB, I’d actually like to use this prime opportunity to discuss that we do, in fact, eat when we go out.

Tony and I have eaten out a lot throughout our yachting careers.  Sometimes to give me a break from cooking for everybody all the time, and other times as a means of escape from the close confines of our job/living situation and the people we find ourselves crammed into these places with…and to be served for a change, rather than being the ones doing the serving. We have also followed what I would call a strict Paleo diet for the last 5+ years…even while eating out. Did you get that?  Yes, we even follow this WHILE WE EAT OUT.

A lot of complaints I hear about the “restrictive” nature of a paleo/primal way of eating is that it is difficult to eat out at restaurants.  I find that absolute bollocks, quite frankly.  Mind you, I guess if your idea of a restaurant is one of a number of fast-food chains, then my first comment is: that is not food.  So then maybe it will be impossible for you to find something which keeps within a REAL FOOD framework if you are fueling at dubious establishments such as that. But if you are a person who likes to eat real food, and even a real food eater who avoids such things as: grains, sugar, legumes; I am here to say…it is possible.

Now, not saying that I don’t bend here and there, but when I bend, it will be for the rare dessert which has sugar but is not made with grains. When we go out to eat, we seem to really focus on the starters and mains, eschew the bread basket (that’s just filler anyway) and IF it’s a seriously special occasion, we may do a dessert that doesn’t have grains.  Examples: house made sorbets and ice creams, macarons, chocolate (preferably dark), crème caramel or crème brulee or something with fruit. Normally I am so full by the time the starter and main have been eaten that I really cannot fathom fitting in more food just for the sake of eating more food.  If this is the case, but I want a sweet ending, I might order a dessert wine or fortified wine etc.

Yes, I drink.  I love wine and whiskey and tequila and cocktails and cider.  I cannot handle beer (sadly- I used to be a huge lover of beer and do miss it) but beer does not agree with me and will have me doubled over in pain in short order with terrible digestive (ahem) affects lasting for days.  Just not worth it. And the same goes for me eating corn (stuffy nose for days), corn starch (same- can’t breathe), most rice (fall asleep at the table), wheat/rye/barley (bad, bad tummy and horrible digestive issues for days on end).

Funny enough, I am not a celiac. However, the little issues I lived with on a daily basis pre-paleo…stuffy nose, constant colds, allergies, frequent toilet visits and gassy (sorry…TMI), all magically disappeared when I removed these things from my diet.  I feel f-ing amazing ALL. THE. TIME. When I have tried to add a little bit back here and there and the effects are tremendous, this tells me that this is possibly just not the greatest thing for me to eat.  And I am perfectly fine with that.  I do not ever feel deprived.  I am a chef, for goodness sake, and you know what? I eat to feel great and enjoy my food, so I have made this work for me and I continue to have wonderful culinary experiences wherever I go! Also, I have weighed the cost-benefits, and for me, that momentary taste of whatever is a trigger has not ever once been worth what takes me days to get over. For other people, maybe they eat ‘clean’ most of the time and are able to indulge when they go out without terrible effects…good for them.  Wish I could say the same thing about myself.

So what to do?  Well, obvs…read the menu. See what’s on there and figure out if there are ingredients that you cannot or will not eat due to what you avoid.  If you are not sure, ask the server.  If they are not sure, get them to go find out!  Simple.  When something sounds amazing but it comes with say, a wheat berry or faro risotto, but you aren’t eating that, then ask if you can sub out a vegetable instead.  If you don’t ask, then you will not find out.  Worst case scenario, you get a flat “no” and then you have to figure something else out.  However, I have found most places are very accommodating.  They will swap sides, they will put dressings on the side for you if you suspect that it’s a sauce thickened with flour, for instance.  Ask if the meat/fish/whatever is breaded before it is pan-seared.  Find out if that calamari or fish will come grilled. I am always prepared to buy an extra side vegetable if they will not substitute for me.  So then I just ask if they would kindly omit the item from my plate and I order an extra side of *grilled veg, sautéed spinach, Brussels sprouts or whatever they have going. Sometimes you get really lucky and there are things you can order straight off the menu.

You will sometimes get funny looks or met with disbelief…the French waiters just could not understand that we didn’t want bread…  ‘Du pain?  Non???’ (we are clearly very gauche). For the most part, people are willing to help. I perhaps wouldn’t do a chef’s tasting menu where I knew that there were going to be a lot of grains, but otherwise, I have never let my desire to eat what feels right for my body hold me back.

I have hundreds of food photos from all over the world of us eating AMAZING local food. For the past 5 years I have made it work for me, so I can enjoy myself, not feel like crap but still eat local and enjoy the cuisine that makes up the culture where I am visiting. Just ask. Ask and don’t be afraid. Don’t let your choice of food, or desire to eat healthfully hold you back from socializing, traveling and experiencing all that is out there!!!

Fair winds…
Dawn